During cons, meeting one of your favorite celebrities can be an incredibly exciting experience, especially if you are able to walk right up to them. Your first instinct may to be a gushing adoration of all of their work, or to get nervous and clam up, or maybe even to just fling your arms around them. While the first two are understandable, the latter is actually quite inappropriate, and it's become an increasing problem at conventions.
Imagine What Celebrities Experience At Every. Single. Convention.
Imagine someone coming up to you whom you have never met before. You know nothing about this person or what their background is. They then proceed to grab you and kiss you on the cheek without warning - or more. Your reaction would most likely be shock, and more than a little discomfort. Now add to that you are a celebrity, with every move being watched. If you come across as harsh or mean to a fan you could very well be branded as cruel or stuck up when things get taken out of context, as they do in many situations.
At a Supernatural Pittsburgh convention, Jared Padalecki went to greet a fan and compare heights. Jensen Ackles, not to be outdone, left the stage himself to immediately be swarmed by fans, with one girl immediately grabbing his neck and planting a kiss on his cheek. You can see the panel below, courtesy of SPNConGirl, with the incident in question happening right before the end of the video. He is frozen for a moment before yelling over to Jared that his hug was "no big deal." In true Jensen fashion he was able to make a joke about it, but it was clear he was uncomfortable and momentarily at a loss.
Cosplay is not consent, and neither is celebrity.
Everyday we hear about how being drunk isn't consent, how women dress doesn't mean consent. It is one of those unforgiving things that society must understand and get better at recognizing. It's no different in geek culture, too. The "Cosplay Is Not Consent" motto has popped up at conventions all over in response to the ongoing problem of convention-goers grabbing, groping, or otherwise putting their hands on cosplayers, believing it's okay as they're in costume. We now know - or should, at least - that it's not okay, and simply because someone is in costume doesn't mean they're free to be touched without their consent.
However, it goes both ways and fans too often forget that. Being a celebrity is not automatic consent, either. It does not give fans a free pass to do what they want simply because they see a celebrity they love before them. Celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. They are not their characters and they are not our toys. They do not "owe" their fans anything except entertainment, which they gladly give in whatever field they happen to be in. It's why we become their fans in the first place.
It happens more than we realize.
Jensen isn't the only actor to have this happen to him. While on his honeymoon, Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries) had to ask fans to give him and his wife Nikki Reed privacy as they had been stalked the day before.
While the "fan" tries to label it as rude, he is clearly trying to be kind about it, but wants to have his privacy. And that's understandable. Would you want to be harassed on your honeymoon? No.
And just last month, a rumor started circulating that a fan tried to inappropriately kiss actor Chris Evans at Wizard World Philly, causing him to have a panic attack. While Evans denied the rumor, he's been open in the past about having anxiety when it comes to the press obligations and promotional tours for the MCU, and the obsession of fans likely plays a large role in that.
It hasn't only happened to the male celebrities, either. Amy Schumer had to take to Instagram a while ago after a fan came up and got in her face demanding a photo. When she politely said no, he insisted and said, "No, it's America, we paid for you."
It's not only a violation, it's considered illegal.
If these were every day people, would you think it was ok to see people waving cameras in their face? Especially when the person said no? By taking the photos, or demanding them, you are taking away consent. The law certainly seems to think so. Just this week, we read the news of Playmate model Dani Mathers snapping a picture of a random woman at her gym to bodyshame her on Snapchat. Though Mathers has since apologized and explained that she meant to send it to her friend and accidentally made it public, she may very well have criminal charges pressed against her.
Just as she violated that woman's right to privacy, space, and consent, fans can often be in violation of the trust that celebrities have in their fans to give them privacy when it is asked for. It's usually not intentional; fans just get so overwhelmed and excited that they forget themselves. But that still doesn't make it right.
Just take a moment and think about you would want to be treated in their position.
Please consider this the next time that you have a run in with your favorite celebrity. So many have been violated in some way or another, and that needs to stop. If they are willing to take a selfie, or say hi, that is when you can ask for a hug. Even if they say no, just say, "Thank you for being here. I am so glad I got to meet you." So many fans stay behind their phones and don't live in the moment, appreciating that this person who was on their screen is now in front of them.
Be in the moment. Be happy you had it. But please, if they ask for privacy, respect them. If you want a hug or a kiss, respect them and ask for their consent. If you love them like you say you do, you will respect their wishes and come away from the encounter with a really awesome story to tell your friends and family.
Being a celebrity is not consent. Remember that.